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Does Gore Make Game of Thrones More ‘Real’?

Do you read to escape reality, or to examine It?

Hannah Sternberg


June 8, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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all my friends are dead

After last week’s Game of Thrones episode with its infamous Red Wedding scene, watchers of the show wait on the edge of their seats to find out what could possibly happen next and readers are wondering where in the heart-pounding series of events in A Storm of Swordsthe show creators will decide to end this season.

In an Entertainment Weekly interview, author George R. R. Martin replied to questions about how he coped with writing such a bloody, tragic scene, and how he dealt with the initial reader reaction:

People read books for different reasons. I respect that. Some read for comfort. And some of my former readers have said their life is hard, their mother is sick, their dog died, and they read fiction to escape. They don’t want to get hit in the mouth with something horrible. And you read that certain kind of fiction where the guy will always get the girl and the good guys win and it reaffirms to you that life is fair. We all want that at times. There’s a certain vicarious release to that. So I’m not dismissive of people who want that. But that’s not the kind of fiction I write, in most cases. It’s certainly not what Ice and Fire is. It tries to be more realistic about what life is. It has joy, but it also had pain and fear. I think the best fiction captures life in all its light and darkness.

First of all, one of the things I admire about Martin in this interview is how nonjudgmental he is of escapist fiction. He’s not saying that readers who want a soothing story are wrong or stupid or lazy readers; he’s just saying they’re not the readers for his books.

In that quote, Martin is implying that his series isn’t really escapism, at least not the way he defines it. But Game of Thrones is escapism, it’s just escapism for people who enjoy escaping into a world of heart-pounding drama and pornographic levels of gore. Not all forms of escapism are about comfortable sedation in a pain-free world. But just adding more gore and senseless tragedy doesn’t necessarily make a story more realistic.

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Since I was a boy and I read the excellent book Enemy at the Gates by William Craig, I've been fascinated by books and documentaries about the Eastern Front of World War II. (the book was much better than the movie, by the way) The accounts by survivors and historians of that conflict are more interesting to me than fictional accounts. For some reason, it seems like I find some sort of catharsis in reading those histories. And I am always especially fascinated by the evil, heroism, perseverence and suffering that human beings are capable of. I doubt (knock wood) that I will ever experience the sort of events that occurred in the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, so when I read about those events, there might be some of the same things going on for me which are present in people who read or watch fantasy such as "Game of Thrones." Yet I think my fascination all comes back to my interest in real human nature.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Only to the truly gullible. ManBearPig.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As I have discussed with several friends who watch the series in recent weeks, the problem with Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire is that it has long since crossed the line in its content to the point that I simply do not care about any of the characters anymore. I want 90% to just die screaming and the other 10% to survive long enough only so they can ensure the first 90% do die screaming. Never mind none of them having any redeeming qualities, they have no reader identification/protagonist qualities, and barely qualify as two-dimensional antagonists.

As for the claim of "realism" for the point of examining something, what exactly is it supposed to be examining - torture porn and pedophilia? Do I really need tomes released every five years for that? Which of course assumes that I'm THAT interested not merely in torture porn and pedophilia, but a tome that wanders back and forth between the two with extended bouts of tedious digression on something that is supposed to resemble a story with some people that are supposed to resemble characters.

Now mind you, I've read some gratuitously prurient sci-fi/fantasy in my day. Heck, I love me some Robert A. Heinlein and Piers Anthony, not to mention Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber among too many others. But at least they gave me interesting stories with intriguing characters and kept the torture to "mundane" S&M and kept the pedophilia under restraint albeit at the cost of extra incest. Somewhere along the line though it appears as if Martin either forgot or stopped caring about having a story to link the kink, and the result is moving from simply tedious to increasing repugnance.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bravo on your comment. I'm planning my own post, hopefully tomorrow, making similar points. I guess I'll watch the last episode of the season but right now I'm pretty burnt out on HBO's nihilism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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